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TOWARDS A HUSSERLIAN AESTHETIC
A Transcendental Phenomenological Orientation to Kandinsky's Creative Process
A beautiful work is the consequence of a harmonious cooperation of the inner and the outer; i.e., a painting is an intellectual organism which, like every other material organism, consists of many parts.
—Wassily Kandinsky 
Employing a Husserlian phenomenological methodology, this paper argues that that two interwoven and interdependent components form the aesthetic and spiritual animus driving Wassily Kandinsky’s creative process, merging in the midst of that process into a single impetus that eventually yielded the artist’s nonobjective abstraction. These components—which I describe as a numinous sensibility (meaning a sensibility to the numinous) and a dialectical dynamic—are not exactly synonymous versions of Kandinsky’s own use of “inner and outer” forces, since each component described here has both inner and outer aspects. However, each component reflects a preponderance of either one or the other quality. Each factor must be understood in the artist’s own language and theory even as it is being explicated by a Husserlian methodology. Examining Kandinsky’s complex yet nonetheless singular role as artist and theorist also signals a concept implicit throughout this paper: the artist-philosopher. It is in fact the words and ideas of the artist-philosopher or artist-theorist that facilitates a meaningful depth in this kind of study.
While the core argument here addresses Kandinsky’s work, my more extended and broader argument is that the transcendental phenomenological methodology of Edmund Husserl, the widely acknowledged founder of modern phenomenology,  can be applied to any work of art. That Husserl’s phenomenology was a critical turning point in the history of modern philosophy is undeniable; many scholars have argued this point, including Bud C. Hopkins: “Husserl’s phenomenology is unarguably the source of one of the two major philosophical orientations of the past century, what today goes by the name ‘continental philosophy.’ ” 
That a Husserlian aesthetic is possible is perhaps more debatable. However, I am convinced of the viability of this proposal, and thus consider this paper to be my initial step towards explicating a Husserlian aesthetic. In noting that this phenomenological investigation of Kandinsky’s creative process is an initial step towards a Husserlian philosophy of art, I am not claiming to be the first to consider the possibility. Contemporary scholars such as John B. Brough and Milan Uzelac  have each suggested that possibility, and their commentaries are valued resources for this paper.
Phenomenological aesthetic theory and phenomenological methodology applied to art are more commonly associated with some of Husserl’s students or individuals influenced by Husserl’s work—the most famous of these being Maurice Merleau-Ponty, Martin Heidegger, Emmanuel Levinas, Paul Ricoeur, Jean-Paul Sartre, Roman Ingarden, and Jacques Derrida, among others. Although Husserl never proposed a formal aesthetic theory, he did on occasion address art and aesthetics in some of his lectures and writings, usually in a context of explicating a broader usage of phenomenological principles. 
Among the influences and experiences fueling Wassily Kandinsky’s artistic journey into non-objective abstract painting is a 1908 anecdote told by the artist:
Much later, after my arrival in Munich, I was enchanted on one occasion by an unexpected spectacle that confronted me in my studio. It was the hour when dusk draws in. I returned home with my painting box having finished a study, still dreamy and absorbed in the work I had completed, and suddenly saw an indescribably beautiful picture, pervaded by an inner glow. At first, I stopped short and then quickly approached this mysterious picture, on which I could discern only forms and colors and whose content was incomprehensible. At once, I discovered the key to the puzzle: it was a picture I had painted, standing on its side against the wall. The next day, I tried to recreate my impression of the picture from the previous evening by daylight. I only half succeeded, however; even on its side, I constantly recognized objects, and the fine bloom of dusk was missing. Now I could see clearly that objects harmed my pictures. 
Kandinsky’s intense interest in the spiritual in art, when combined with this moment of perceptual “not-knowing” or mystery in consciousness, illustrates a thematic aspect of this paper. When Husserl wrote in lecture notes that “aesthetic consciousness [is] essentially connected with the distinction between the consciousness of an object as such and the object’s manner of appearing,”  Husserl could just as well have been addressing Kandinsky’s encounter with his own unrecognized painting.
Nor is Kandinsky’s story unique to him or to art. The moment of unfamiliarity, of mystery or “not knowing,” occurs—as contemporary phenomenological scholar Jennifer Anna Gossetti-Ferencei argues—against the background of the quotidian, daily life experience. “Unfamiliarity, wonder, and mysteriousness are both embedded in and turnings-away from familiarity and predictability.” 
Thirteen years before the Kandinsky’s Munich incident, a minor yet seminal “not knowing” experience initiated a root awakening to the significance of perceptual and emotional engagement of the art object:
About a year before leaving Russia he saw an exhibition of French Impressionists in Moscow, and for the first time became aware of the characteristics of modern painting. Before [i.e. before viewing] one of Claude Monet’s Haystacks, he did not recognize the object [i.e. did not “see” a haystack], missed it, but at the same time he noticed that the picture moved him deeply, becoming engraved in his memory with all its special charter. 
Unpublished in Kandinsky’s lifetime, a 1937 interview with New York dealer and collector KarlNierendorf also reveals some details about his artistic evolution. Nierendorf’s question of “How did you arrive at the idea of ‘abstract’ painting?” brought a detailed response from Kandinsky that described his Russian years and how the Impressionist exhibition in Moscow as well as seeing Matisse’s paintings, more and more changed his ideas about the recognizable object in art.
In 1906 I saw for the first time Matisse’s early pictures, which were also highly controversial—for the same reason as those of the Impressionists in Moscow. Much encouraged, I asked myself once again the question whether one might not simply reduce or distort objects, but do away with them altogether. So I went over to abstract painting, by way of “Expressionism”—slowly, as a result of endless experiments, doubts, hopes, and discoveries. 
That Kandinsky’s creative process addressed the object in art is well known. “Kandinsky has given a better and more radical description than anyone else of this elimination of the object, this rejection of representation which refers painting back to its own particular ‘element’.”  Kandinsky’s attention to the object in his own art is one reason his work evolved from expressionistic representation to non-objective abstraction, or to use examples, from Riding Couple (Fig.1) to Composition VIII (fig.2). Riding Couple is a visual expression of a numinous sensibility in that it expresses illuminated life. (The usage of “numinous” and the reasons for choosing that term instead of a synonym will be explained later.) That Riding Couple is a highly romantic expressionist work is probably clear to most viewers, and yet Kandinsky scholar Peg Weiss notes that there is a universal mystery being communicated beyond mere sentimental romanticism: “Riding Couple is perhaps the paradigm evocative of fairy-tale romance, at once recognizable as ‘Russian dream’ yet at the same time mysteriously moving in a universal way.”
Riding Couple, 1906-07
Oil on canvas, 22x20 inches, Städtische Galerie im Lenbachhaus, Munich
Composition VIII (1923), on the other hand, more fully communicates this sensibility. Guggenheim curator Karole Vail described the painting as a “masterpiece of the artist’s Bauhaus years”  and noted that Kandinsky in his own words described the colorful floating circles in the painting as the “synthesis of the greatest oppositions. [The circle] combines the concentric and excentric in a single form, and in equilibrium. Of the three primary forms [triangle, square, circle], it points most clearly to the fourth dimensions.”  Clearly then, the maturing of the artist’s aesthetic involved more than a wish to remove the recognizable or representational object from painting.
Composition VIII, 1923
Oil on canvas, 55x79, The Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York
III. Inner Necessity
What is described here as a sensibility to the numinous is a root sensibility that Kandinsky often called “inner necessity” (also occasionally translated as “inner need” or as “internal necessity”). As French philosopher and novelist Michel Henry emphasized, “Time and time again, Kandinsky presented Inner Necessity as the principle of abstract painting.”  Kandinsky’s attraction to communicating underlying spiritual truth or mystery via art inspired both his art-making and his art theory writings. Kandinsky “wrote extensively, and his On the Spiritual in Art remains possibly the most influential single statement to have been produced by any twentieth-century artist.” 
What exactly does Kandinsky mean by “inner necessity”? Kandinsky “came to see abstraction as a path to human liberation from the glorification of materialism and the status quo implicit in traditional realism. Through his art, he wished to foster ‘higher’ states of feeling related to the viewer’s awareness of the inner, creative life force that be believed pervades the cosmos.”  Kandinsky refers to a general use of “inner” throughout his 1912 Concerning the Spiritual in Art. In the 1947 edition of the book in Robert Motherwell’s series, Documents of Modern Art, this is elucidated in notes that describe not only inner necessity, but also the tension between inner and outer forces that activates inner necessity. Emotion in the artist is communicated in the art-work and sensed by the viewer. Thus this inner element determines, according to Kandinsky, the form of the work of art: “The determining and vital element is the inner one, which controls the outer form, just as an idea in the mind determines the words we use, and not vice versa”  Kandinsky also brings up “the principle of inner necessity” while discussing color in art, and then goes on to describe how inner necessity originates from three elements:
Inner necessity originates from three elements: (1) Every artist, as a creator, has something in him that demands expression (this is the element of personality). (2) Every artist, as the child of his time, is impelled to express the spirit of his age (this is the element of style) — dictated by the period and particular country to which the artist belongs (it is doubtful how long the latter distinction will continue). (3) Every artist, as a servant of art, has to help the cause of art (this is the quintessence of art, which is constant in all ages and among all nationalities). These three mystical necessities are the constituent elements of a work of art, which interpenetrate and constitute unity of the work. 
Since Kandinsky uses the word “mystical” (mystisch) in this passage, it should be noted that connotations around words like mystical or occultism or spiritualism represent altogether one of the challenges of understanding what Kandinsky meant by inner necessity. This was a challenge even for Kandinsky, who would at times use the word “mystical” in reference to his inner necessity, and at other times “wants to omit references that would have been easy targets for those that took issue with his more spiritual and mystical frames of reference.”  In the end, however, Kandinsky felt that his creative process was in fact a spiritually rooted mystical process. As John Golding noted while discussing the period when Kandinsky painted on glass, Kandinsky “was now also coming increasingly to welcome the element of chance, of the unexpected, in his work. The paintings on glass helped here; and Kandinsky came to insist that while he was at work, all the verbal, literary rationale underlying each individual painting evaporated or was transcended by pure feeling which took control of him so completely that many works dating from this period were executed by him while in an almost trance-like state.”  This lost of conscious control, which given the intensity of feeling that arose in Kandinsky might be seen as a kind of emotional overflowing phenomenon, was germane to Kandinsky’s creative process. André Breton, leader of the Surrealist movement and an advocate of “psychic automatism,” noticed this sensibility in Kandinsky’s work: “Thus, it is not surprising that Breton picked up enthusiastically on the ‘automatic’ nature of Kandinsky’s style, stating in 1938 that his ‘marvelous eye…belongs to one of the most exceptional, one of the greatest revolutionaries of vision.’ ”  Inaddition, Kandinsky argues in Concerning the Spiritual in Art that the mystical or spiritual content of art is particularly magnified in abstract art, an assertion that in itself is a problematic issue. “By claiming that the content of abstract art is spiritual whereas the content of realistic art is material, Kandinsky created an awkward problem.” 
The difficulty inherent in explicating the intuitive property of inner necessity and how that is related to the evolution of Kandinsky’s abstract work signals why the word “numinous” is used here instead of connotatively overloaded terms such as “mystical” or “spiritual” or “religious.” “Numinous” was first used extensively in 1923 in Lutheran theologian Rudolf Otto’s The Idea of the Holy: An Inquiry into the Non-Rational Factor in the Idea of the Divine and Its Relation to the Rational. In describing why he chooses the word “numinous” to discuss the holy, Otto writes that he adopted the term from the Latin numen:
Omen has given us 'ominous', and there is no reason why from numen we should not similarly form a word 'numinous'. I shall speak, then, of a unique 'numinous' category of value and of a definitely 'numinous' state of mind, which is always found wherever the category is applied. This mental state is perfectly sui generis and irreducible to any other; and therefore, like every absolutely primary and elementary datum, while it admits of being discussed, it cannot be strictly defined. 
Kandinsky presumably had no contact with Rudolf Otto, but Husserl did read Otto and even wrote tohim that “despite methodological reservations, he regarded the book as ‘ein erster Anfan für einePhänomenoligie des Religiösen.’ [A beginning for a phenomenology of religion.]”  The reason for using “numinous” in the present paper, however, is less for theological reasons and more about using a term that combines spiritual and aesthetic in a single interpretation. As one contemporary professor of art history and art theory, James Elkins, has noted, “[numinous] may be the closest to a one-word definition of the spirituality that informs some current visual art.”  Primary definitions of “numinous” include “revealing or indicating the presence of a divinity; divine, spiritual,” and “in extended use: giving rise to a sense of the spiritually transcendent; (esp. of things in art [emphasis is mine] or the natural world) evoking a heightened sense of the mystical or sublime; awe-inspiring.”  While “numinous” has been used to describe the spiritual impulse in contemporary art,  it has also been used in a more scientifically oriented evolutionary vein as a prehistoric developmental characteristic.  A salient point in this paper is that Kandinsky’s attraction to “numinous” merges with his attraction to nonobjective abstraction, reflecting his desire to go beyond the object or, more accurately in phenomenological terms, to receive the object prior to perceptual interpretation.
V. A Dialectical Dynamic
Kandinsky’s lifelong curiosity and interminable quest to express spiritual truth through visual art precipitated his interest in and openness to numerous philosophical influences, both explicit and implicit. Scholars and art historians have described Kandinsky’s artistic process as a desire for synthesis,  as essentialist theory interwoven with a trope of purity,  and as culturally fueled symbolism,  among other views. A key to understanding the numinous impulse in Kandinsky’s creative process lies less in his confrontation with artistic subject-object dichotomy that he became aware of in Moscow and Munich, and more in his struggle between expression and reception that gives rise to what Kandinsky’s nephew, the Hegelian scholar Alexandre Kojève, describes in his Introduction to the Reading of Hegel as a dialectic of thesis, antithesis, and synthesis. 
Although Kandinsky’s writings do not explicitly reference or mention Hegel, some scholars have suggested that Kandinsky, being a theorist and reader as well as an artist, would likely have known about Hegel’s work.  Having a relative who was a Hegelian scholar increases that likelihood.
Furthermore, in his mission to uncover a sense of unity in the art of all epochs, Kandinsky was consciously influenced by “the writings of Alois Riegl and Wilhelm Worringer, appropriating in stages, particularly from the latter’s thesis Abstraction and Empathy, the framework that would allow Kandinsky to argue that all true art is the product of a transcendent will or spirit that runs through all peoples and epochs, and the new art is born of precisely the same ‘inner necessity’ as all earlier art—and therefore is justified.”  Hegel influenced both Riegel and Worringer. Riegel’s historiography is greatly indebted to Hegel, and Worringer in turn was strongly influenced by Riegel’s writings. 
Specifically relevant here, however, is the tension in Kandinsky’s aesthetic between expression and reception. That tension overflows into a dialectical synthesis of expression and reception, one that would ultimately punctuate the history of modern art with the appearance of non-objective abstraction. Although describing Kandinsky’s creative process as purely Hegelian in the sense of being fueled by a historical dynamic would be inaccurate, a dialectical dynamic does inform and fuel Kandinsky’s aesthetic. The interpretation that acknowledges the tension inherent in Kandinsky’s creative process, and that places Kandinsky’s expressive focus in an antithetical position with his reception of a preinterpretative object perception, defines the mechanics of his dialectical dynamic and reveals the synthesis of expression and reception. Kandinsky’s orientation to painting changed as his aesthetic evolved, remaining at first expressionist, but not as explicitly representational. In his 1912 painting160A (fig. 3), for example, the painting, though highly abstract, contains a discernible horse and rider in the upper right section of the painting, and other figures in the work, such as birds, are suggested. Over the following decade this attraction to nonobjective abstraction continued.
Sketch 160A, 1912
Oil on canvas, Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, Texas
By 1923, Composition VIII (fig. 2), is completely nonobjective. By the time of his last years, his so-called Paris years, Kandinsky’s paintings were more organic and less geometric, but still not recognizable in the usual sense of recognizable objects. The 1939 Composition X (fig. 4) reflects this shift towards the organic, which is more pronounced in Sky Blue (fig. 5).
Composition X, 1939
Oil on canvas, 51x76 inches, Kunstammlung Nordrhein-Westfalen, Düsseldorf
Bleu de Ciel (Sky Blue), 1940
Oil on canvas, 39 x 29 in., Centre Pompidou, Paris
VI. The Conjunction of Spirituality and Modernist Visual Art
Although perhaps obvious, two points need to be clarified: (1) the numinous sensibility is not restricted to or exclusively a characteristic of modern abstract art, and (2) all abstract modern art is not necessarily an attempt to express a numinous impulse. “Inner necessity” was not unique to Kandinsky, although at times the “inner” in other artists accentuated modernity more than spiritual, as it was with in the work Léger:
In Paris, Fernand Léger was also writing about his own “inner necessity” in his depictions of modernity. His essay “Contemporary Achievements in Painting,” written in 1914, states that, “If pictorial expression has changed, it is because modern life has necessitated it.” Léger’s Cubism is based on his ideas of a modern artistic language based on the “inner need” to depict modernity.”
That said, the fact that many modernists working with abstract imagery in the 20th century explicitly acknowledged an interest in some form of spirituality as a part of their art-making process is indisputable. The 1986-1987 exhibition The Spiritual in Art: Abstract Painting 1890-1985 was the first major exhibition to address this topic. Maurice Tuchman, one of the organizers of the exhibition, addressed this issue:
The Spiritual in Art: Abstract Painting 1890-1985 demonstrates that the genesis and development of abstract art was inextricably tied to spiritual ideas current in Europe in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. An astonishingly high proportion of visual artists working in the past one hundred years have been involved with these ideas and belief systems, and their art reflects a desire to express spiritual, utopian, or metaphysical ideas that cannot be expressed in traditional pictorial terms. 
Two other major museum exhibitions in recent years had themes addressing a spiritual orientation to modern art: Traces du Sacre (Traces of the Sacred), which opened at Centre Pompidou in Paris in 2008, then traveled to Haus der Kunst in Munich during 2008-2009; and The Third Mind: American Artists Contemplate Asia, 1860–1989 at the Guggenheim Museum in New York in 2009.
VII. Towards a Husserlian Aesthetic: Applying Husserlian Principles
Various principles in Edmund Husserl’s phenomenological investigations of appearance become accentuated as a Husserlian aesthetic when applied to Kandinsky’s visual art. Some scholars have noted the ocularcentric premises in Husserl’s phenomenology,  and that preference for immediate vision is an aspect of Husserl’s methodology that lends itself to a phenomenological explication of visual art.
Husserl’s use of epochē, in which phenomena are given in appearance prior to the assigning recognizable attributions or characteristics, acts as a clearing mechanism in order to proceed without becoming entangled with preconceptual issues that are, thematically speaking, of peripheral significance. This also points to a phrase Husserl often used: “back to the things themselves.”
Kandinsky’s division between two impulses, expression and reception, is better understood by using the epochē, or phenomenological reduction. “The Greek term epochē is used by Husserl (sometimes transliterated in German as Epoche) to mean a procedure of bracketing, excluding, canceling, putting out of action certain belief components of our experience.”  A special version of bracketing or epochē could be said to have occurred in an instinctive and circumstantial way when Kandinsky was attempting to identify the content of his own painting as described in his anecdote earlier in this paper.  What was known or presumed to be known via visual familiarity was instinctively bracketed out because nothing about the painting in those particular circumstances was familiar or recognizable. Usually in Husserl’s epochē the “lived experience” is bracketed out in order to distill to an essence of what is being considered; in the case of the painting, the presumptions and presuppositions inherent in the lived experience were nullified and presented as “not knowing,” resulting in Kandinsky viewing a non-objective abstraction.
The Husserlian epochē has already been referenced and utilized in phenomenological aesthetic studies of modernism.  Alexandra Munroe, the Senior Curator of Asian Art at the Guggenheim and the curator of the exhibition The Third Mind: American Artists Contemplate Asia, 1860-1989, discusses in that exhibition’s catalog the influence of phenomenology on Minimalist abstraction, and “the early Minimalists” discovery of Edmund Husserl’s theory of “phenomenological reduction.” Husserl describes this event as the temporary “bracketing out” of surrounding phenomena in the direct perception and apprehension of an object.”  Likewise, contemporary French scholar Natalie Deprazhas emphasized the inherent relationship between epochē and imagination, noting that in the first volume of Husserl’s Ideen “he provides us with an intrinsic link between imagination and the very method of phenomenology, namely, the epochē.”  Explaining how imagination (unlike perception) “suspends the actual existence of the object,” directing toward its “ineffective modality,” Deprazsuggests that this clears the way to a great variety of possibility instead of (as in perception) one unique reality. In this context both epochē and imagination override factual limitations and allow fresh possibilities. 
More specifically, Husserl’s epochē serves the explication of Kandinsky’s non-objective abstraction and the phenomenological, aesthetic and spiritual implications inherent in that non-objective imagery. Michel Henry does not hesitate to apply Husserl’s epochē to Kandinsky’s work:
[Kandinsky] showed how by separating a letter or sign from its linguistic meaning or any other context in which it usually occurs one could again experience its “pure form,” its “purely pictorial” form. But once the world and all its meanings have been set aside, once its logos, which has always been that which is spoken by men, has been silenced, what exactly is left? According to Husserl and those artists who gave up realism, we are left with the sensate appearances to which the true, given world is reduced, the pure experience of the world. 
Describing the mystery inherent in the paintings of Kandinsky’s last decade of work, the so-called Paris period, Henry argues that resting within this mystery is “the identity of abstract painting and the cosmos,” and that “by setting the world aside, abstract painting assigned itself a new and paradoxical goal, the invisible. 
Givenness, Intuition, Intentionality
Thus intuition that allows “invisibility” in the creative process necessarily bypasses what is commonly defined as object perception. If the outer impulse is bracketed via Husserlian epochē, the artist can be observed allowing and receiving the mystery of the unrecognizable object, or art without a recognizable object. In this receptive impulse, the artist receives the outer influence not just as recognition of natural beauty, but (in Husserlian terms) as the givenness (an object is “given” to perceptual consciousness)  of the object itself. This orientation applied to Kandinsky’s work ultimately allows the artist to receive the givenness of nonobjective abstraction.
Intentionality is closely partnered with intuition in Husserl’s phenomenology. Thus it is necessary to understand first how Husserl uses the term “intuition.” The most immediate and primary definition of intuition is that intuition is “immediate apprehension.”  Derived from the Latin intueri, often translated as meaning “to look inside” or “to contemplate,” intuition when defined as “immediate apprehension” allows for a broad interpretation, covering many states such as sensation, knowledge, and even mystical rapport. Intuition in Husserl’s phenomenology is used in several ways, including as “evidence” and as eidetic intuition, the intuition of an eidos or essence.
While some of the subtle distinctions among Husserl’s uses of “intuition” are explicated and broken down by his student Emmanuel Levinas,  what is important here is to emphasize how Levinas’s explication of Husserlian intentionality recognizes the uncommon significance (beyond the common one of intending to do something) that Husserl assigns to intentionality:
It expresses the fact, which at first does not seem original, that each act of consciousness is conscious of something: each perception is the perception of a perceived object, each desire the desire of desired object, each judgment the judgment of a “state of affairs” (Sachverhalt) about which one makes a pronouncement. But we shall soon realize the philosophical interest of this property of consciousness and the profound transformation that it brings to the very notion of consciousness. 
In the context of Levinas’s description of the Husserlian rendering of consciousness, intentionality and apprehension ultimately yield an intuition of immediate structure as evidence of life in art. At the same time, intentionality redefines the relation of subject and object, described here by P. Sven Arvidson:
With Husserl’s Logical Investigations, phenomenology established a new sense of the traditional relation between object and subject in philosophy. This doctrine of intentionality in phenomenology asserts that the subject (as consciousness) is already directed toward or involved with an object, when object is understood in the very general sense as anything that is presented. The subject and object are part of a structure of relations in which meaning is revealed between them.” 
Similarly, Levinas emphasizes that when intentionality becomes (in Husserlian phenomenology) a bridge between the world and consciousness, what occurs is the breakdown of the subject-object dichotomy, so that “[intentionality] is not the way in which a subject tries to make contact with an object that exists beside it. Intentionality is what makes up the very subjectivity of subject.  Levinas asserts that Husserl, by overcoming the substantialist concept of existence, demonstrated how “a subject is not something that first exists and then relates to objects.” 
Nonetheless, how is the element of expression in Kandinsky related to Levinas’s argument? The expressive element in Kandinsky’s aesthetic is driven by the numinous sensibility that is initiated by the emotional desire to convey the spiritual via his artistic work, so that image consciousness becomes absolute consciousness. If Husserlian intuitions are perceptions or modifications of perception, and intuition indicates a “location” where an intentional object is directly present via that intentionality, when an intention is "filled" by the apprehension of an object, that object is intuited. While the appearance of the object is “given” and Kandinsky’s reception of the given object is a key element in his creative dynamic, his simultaneous intentionality to render inner necessity or the numinous visible via abstraction represents a form of direct apprehension in which a given object fulfills intentionality as an intuition of the object, even when that apprehension is rooted in, fueled by, or transformed into phantasy or memory, or even when that object is unrecognizable or pre-interpretational. The “interwoven” aspect of Kandinsky’s creative process reveals how intentionality and apprehension yield an intuition of immediate structure as evidence of life in art, which also echoes Michel Henry’s argument of material phenomenology and interiority as invisible life. 
Phantasy (fantasy), Image Consciousness, Memory
Husserl observed that all art moves between two extremes, one being image art, mediated through image consciousness, and the other being “purely a matter of phantasy, producing phantasy formations in the modification of pure neutrality. At least producing no concrete depictive image.” The fact that Husserlian transcendental phenomenology addresses imagination, image consciousness, phantasy, memory, and time consciousness  allows these principles to be applied aesthetically. Husserl considered, for example, how perspectival distortion and the alteration of shape because of a change in an object’s position has to be accounted for via the imagination and image consciousness. “This achievement of the imagination does not affect the side of sensibility but the side of the expected, that is, in a certain sense the side of the schema. It is a method of perspectival correction (Umzeichnung) and positional alteration of the expected objects.”  Husserl’s methodology for phantasy (fantasy), image consciousness, and memory can be applied to Kandinsky’s entire oeuvre from early expressionistic, representational paintings (e.g., figs. 1 and 3) to his nonobjective work (e.g., figs.2, 4 and 5). Another way of approaching this would be to assert, as Milan Uzelac does, that “the essence of classical, modern and postmodern art is the same,” the point of difference being “the way of interpretation of objectification, which is constituted in the creative act.”
Before considering Husserlian image consciousness, a general phenomenological principle should be noted here: “Phenomenology does not attempt to speak about things, but only about the way they manifest themselves, and hence it tries to describe the nature of appearance as such.” Appearances are given to consciousness, thus givenness (Gegebenheit) becomes relevant when examining Kandinsky’s creative process. Givenness in Husserlian terms is an experience of something, the object appearing (being given in appearance) and experienced (received), at which point the subject (Kandinsky, the artist, and also the viewer of a Kandinsky painting) is perceiving the object that is given in appearance. In arguing that image consciousness as it exists in the creative process of Kandinsky’s abstract art is rooted in an “inner” numinous impulse, some points arise about Husserl’s orientation to image consciousness (Bildbewusstein, also translated as “depicting consciousness”). Although perception obviously plays a major role in making and viewing visual art, perception and image consciousness are not identical in Husserl’s phenomenology. The specific modality of consciousness that is Husserlian image consciousness is separate from but combined with perception, including being combined in the creative process. One key to understanding this lies in Husserlian givenness, the appearance itself. There are multifarious influential elements, depending on the form of consciousness being experienced, that enter into Husserlian givenness. Besides perceiving and imagining, there is Husserlian picture consciousness, sign consciousness (signitive consciousness).  “As Husserl writes, even external perception is a constant pretension to accomplish what it is not in a position to accomplish, namely, the complete givenness of the object; we are never with a plus ultra.” Memory, fantasy, and image consciousness are all forms of presentation for Husserl, although image consciousness is related to perception “where what is actually intended is not the same as what is sensuously presented.”  A photograph of a person first appears, for example, as a paper object, not as a person, and a painting first appears as paint applied to canvas rather than as a composition.
Empathy, Plurality, and Intersubjectivity
Many scholars of phenomenology have emphasized how Husserl’s role in the history of philosophy has been ignored or minimized.  A Husserlian philosophy of art also creates an extended means for understanding the cultural role and philosophical significance of art in society. The impact of Husserl’s phenomenology and his argument in his last work, The Crisis of European Sciences and Transcendental Phenomenology,  aligns Husserl and Kandinsky’s mutual concerns for the well-being of humankind, albeit in philosophical and aesthetic terms respectively. As explicated by John B. Brough, the [Husserlian] “artworld is a specific achievement of subjectivity. When we as phenomenologists make the transcendental turn, this intending subjectivity and its correlative world reveal themselves as vocational, communal, and historical.”  In a context of empathy, the topic of transcendental intersubjectivity becomes relevant. Husserl proposed transcendental intersubjectivity as a means for addressing the problem of solipsism—that a subjective agent can only know or be acquainted with something in isolation from all other existing subjects. 
Although studies have pointed to a quasi-phenomenological methodology in Kant’s Critique of Judgment,  this paper does not permit the space to explore a Kantian rendering of appearance or the differences between Kant and Husserl’s uses of “intuition” and “transcendental.” However, it remains necessary to ask what Husserl mean by a “transcendental phenomenology.” To answer that, one must understand Husserlian subjectivity. John B. Brough describes the specificity of Husserlian subjectivity, in which “authentic philosophical reflection” is inherent in the turn to the subject. “The subject in question is transcendental in Husserl’s sense; it is the subject that intends or presents the world. The Husserlian turn to the subject is therefore not a turn away from the object into a solipsistic self, nor is it a turn to a self which creates its object out of whole cloth; it is rather a taking up of the object in its relation to the subject, the ‘dative of manifestation,’ as Thomas Prufer so aptly puts it, to which the object presents itself.”  The Husserlian meaning of transcendental consciousness is “consciousness as the agent disclosive of the world and intentionally united with that world or, more simply, the whole that is ‘consciousness of the world’—is for phenomenology the absolute concretum. There is nothing that can be meaningfully posited outside this concretum.”  The ultimate “absoluteconcretum” is in Husserlian terms “absolute consciousness,” or the most fundamental level of phenomenological analysis.  This absolute consciousness in Kandinsky’s art surfaces when the attraction to numinous sensibility in the expressive element of his aesthetic is interwoven with the receptive element of his aesthetic as reception of givenness or appearance of the object. This yields the dialectical dynamic in Husserl’s creative process that arises as a tension between expression and reception.
Applying a Husserlian philosophy of art to Kandinsky’s art-making reveals how Husserl and Kandinsky had distinct approaches to the object. The object is a fundamental component of Husserlian transcendental phenomenology, whereas Kandinsky is, to put it simply, working to move beyond the art object. How is this distinction reconciled in a Husserlian aesthetic that addresses Kandinsky’s creative process? Kandinsky is actually motivated to move beyond the recognizable object, which is not, as shown earlier, at odds with the Husserlian epochē. Also, Kandinsky’s quest to transcend the object in art necessarily accentuates the object in art in the sense that the recognizable object’s absenceremains present in a nonobjective work. Givenness remains relevant both to Husserlian phenomenological principles and Kandinsky’s art-making. Anthony J. Steinbock’s reference to “givenness in mystical experience and phenomenology” emphasizes that a Husserlian orientation facilitates more than a theological rendering and categorization. “This is why it is necessary to be open to a broader field of evidence. Such a task…is philosophico-phenomenolgical, not theological. 
While Kandinsky’s path as an artist ultimately aims at communicating “the absolute,” it accomplishes that artistic communication via an interwoven sensibility of inner and outer. When the dialectical dynamic between expression (inner) and reception (outer) is unveiled phenomenologically, both the numinous sensibility (and the dialectical dynamic that the sensibility initiates) yields—in the aesthetic of the mature Kandinsky—the artist’s pioneering work in nonobjective abstract art. Reception of that nonobjective art is rooted in Husserlian intentionality and the reception of givenness (appearance) of the pre-interpretational object. In Kandinsky’s artistic process, this is one artistic impetus, albeit one that combines the inner and the outer. Thus, Husserlian methodology applied as an aesthetic or as a philosophy of art does serve a detailed excogitation of Kandinsky’s creative process.
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 Burt C. Hopkins, The Philosophy of Husserl (Montreal: McGill-Queen’s University Press, 2010), 1. See also Stony Brook University Professor of Philosophy Donn Welton’s summary of Husserl’s influence in footnote 65.
 John B. Brough translated into English the 2005 Springer edition of Husserl’s Phantasy, Image Consciousness, and Memory (1898-1925). Professor Brough also wrote the essay “Art and Artworld: Some Ideas for a Husserlian Aesthetic,” included in the 1988 anthology Edmund Husserl and the Phenomenological Tradition: Essays in Phenomenology, edited by RobertSokolowski. Serbian poet, essayist, and philosophy professor Milan Uzelac wrote one of the most detailed, penetrating, and frequently referenced essays on Husserl and art, “Art and Phenomenology in Edmund Husserl,” published in 1998. These works are listed in the bibliography and are used extensively in this paper. Also it should be noted that many if not most extended discussions of aesthetics and phenomenology (regardless of which phenomenological theorist or thinker is being discussed)will at various points refer to Husserlian phenomenological principles.
 Particularly relevant in proposing a Husserlian aesthetic are Husserl’s investigations of perception as presentation and the varieties of intuitive re-presentation he defines as image consciousness, phantasy, and memory, topics he sometimes illustrates via specific points in art and aesthetic examples. See, for example, Gregory Minissale, in his Faming Consciousness in Art; Minissale uses Husserl’s description in Ideas: General Introduction to Pure Phenomenology of a Dresden Gallery painting by David Teniers to explicate a theme of frames-in-frames and consciousness. Also, in Husserl’s writings in Phantasy, Image Consciousness, and Memory (1898-1925), 38-41, 132: discussing Raphael and Dürer, 182-184: discussing Titian, 192-193: discussing a painting by Franz and Ida Brentano. Throughout this volume are many general considerations of art and aesthetics, including both visual and literary art, as well as music. See also Husserl’s discussion of Durer’s “The Knight, Death, and the Devil” in his Ideas, 228-229. Also there is Husserl’s famous 1907 “Letter to Hugo von Hofmannstahl” in which Husserl discusses phenomenology, art, and aesthetics.
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 Edmund Husserl, Phantasy, Image Consciousness, and Memory (1898-1925), Husserliana: Edmund Husserl - Collected Works (Dordrecht, The Netherlands: Springer, 2005), 459.
 Jennifer Anna Gosetti-Ferencei, The Ecstatic Quotidian: Phenomenological Sightings in Modern Art and Literature(University Park, Pennsylvania: The Pennsylvania State University Press, 2007), 1.
 Will Grohmann, Wassily Kandinsky: Life and Work (New York, Abrams, 1958), 32.
 Wassily Kandinsky, “Interview Nierendorf—Kandinsky” in Kenneth C. Lindsay and Peter Vergo, eds., Kandinsky: Complete Writings on Art (Boston: Da Capo Press, 1994), 806.
 Michael Henry, “The Mystery of the Last Works,” Pierre Adler, trns., in Jelena Halh-Koch, Kandinsky (New York, Rizzoli, 1993), 377.
 Peg Weiss, Kandinsky and Old Russia: The Artist as Ethnographer and Shaman (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1995), 40-42.
 Karole Vail, in Kandinsky (New York: Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, 2009), 234.
 Vasily Kandinsky to Will Grohmann, October 12, 1930, quoted in Angelica Zander Rudenstine, The Guggenheim Museum Collection: Paintings 1880-1945, vol 1 (New York: Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation, 1976), 310. Referenced in Kandinsky(New York: Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, 2009), 234.
 Michel Henry, Seeing the Invisible: On Kandinsky, Scott Davidson, trns. (London: Continuum, 2009), 123.
 John Golding, Paths to the Absolute: Mondrian, Malevich, Kandinsky, Pollock, Newman, Rothko, and Still (Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 2000), 81.
 Mark Rosenthal, Abstraction in the Twentieth Century: Total Risk, Freedom, Discipline (New York: Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, 1996), 262.
 Wassily Kandinsky, Concerning the Spiritual in Art and Painting in Particular. The Documents of Modern Art, Director, Robert Motherwell (New York: Wittenborn, Schultz, 1947), 24. This explanation by Kandinsky of the relation between internal and external, or inner and outer, is a slightly revised version of a translation by Arthur Jerome Eddy of part of an article by Kandinsky which appeared in Der Sturm, Berlin, 1913; cf. Cubists and Post-Impressionists, A. C. McClurg, Chicago, 1914, pp. 119-20.
 Wassily Kandinsky, Concerning the Spiritual in Art and Painting in Particular, The Documents of Modern Art, Director, Robert Motherwell (New York: Wittenborn, Schultz, 1947), 51-52.
 Christopher Short, The Art Theory of Wassily Kandinsky, 1909-1928: The Quest for
Synthesis (Bern: Peter Lang, 2010), 114.
 John Golding, Paths to the Absolute: Mondrian, Malevich, Kandinsky, Pollock,
Newman, Rothko, and Still (Princeton, Jew Jersey: Princeton University Press, 2000), 95.
 Margarita Tupitsyn, Gegen Kandinsky / Against Kandinsky (Munich: Museum Villa
Stuck, 2006), 139. Tupitsyn is quoting Breton from André Breton, Surrealism and Painting, Simon Watson Taylor, trns. (New York: Harper and Row,1972), 286.
 Sixten Ringbom, The Sounding Cosmos: A Study of the Spiritualism of Kandinsky and the Genesis of Abstract Painting(Abo (Turku), Finland: Abo Akademi, 1970) 109.
 Rudolf Otto, The Idea of the Holy: An Inquiry into the Non-Rational Factor in the Idea of the Divine and Its Relation to the Rational, John W. Harvey, trans. (London: Oxford University Press, 1958), 6-7.
 Espen Dahl, Phenomenology and the Holy: Religious Experience after Husserl (London: SCM Press and University of Nottingham, 2010), 18. Dahl attributes this comment to E. Husserl, Briefwechel VII. Husserliana Doumente III, ed. E. Schumann and K. Schumann (Dordrecht: Kluwer, 1994), 207.
 James Elkins, On the Strange Place of Religion in Contemporary Art (New York, Routledge), 105.
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 See Jungu Yoon, Spirituality in Contemporary Art: The Idea of the Numinous (London: Zidane press, 2010).
 See Alondra Yvette Oubre´, Instinct and Revelation: reflections on the Origins of Numinous Perception (Amsterdam: Gordon and Breach, 1997).
 Christopher Short, The Art Theory of Wassily Kandinsky, 1909-1928: The Quest for Synthesis (Bern: Peter Lang, 2010). Short’s argument reveals how Kandinsky’s theory of art accentuates his desire (inner necessity) to uncover a unity of all things.
 Mark A. Cheetham, The Rhetoric of Purity: Essentialist Theory and the Advent of Abstract Painting (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2009), especially “The Mechanisms of Purity II: Kandinsky,” 65-101.
 Igor Aronov, Kandinsky’s Quest: A Study in the Artist’s Personal Symbolism, 1866-1907 (New York: Peter Lang, 2006). Also see Peg Weiss, Kandinsky and Old Russia: The Artist as Ethnographer and Shaman (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1995).
 Alexandre Kojève, Introduction to the Reading of Hegel: Lectures on the Phenomenology of Spirit (Ithaca, New York: Cornell University Press, 1980), 193-194.
 Christopher Short, The Art Theory of Wassily Kandinsky, 1909-1928: The Quest for Synthesis (Bern: Peter Lang, 2010). A primary aspect of Short’s argument is that Kandinsky’s methodology for achieving or revealing unity occurred through synthesis.
 Ibid., 4-5.
 Ibid., 67.
 Michael Robinson, Kandinsky (London: Flame Tree Publishing, 2006), 148.
 Maurice Tuchman, “Hidden Meanings in Abstract Art” in Maurice Tuchman and Carol Blotkamp, contributors, The Spiritual in Art: Abstract Painting 1890-1985 (New York: Abbeville Press, 1986), 17.
 See in particular Martin Jay, Downcast Eyes: The Denigration of Vision in Twentieth-Century French Thought (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1994), 265-268. Also, Jean-Francois Lyotard, Phenomenology, Brian Beakley, trns. (Albany: State University of New York Press, 1991), 40.
 Dermot Moran and Joseph Cohen, The Husserl Dictionary (New York: Continuum, 2012), 106.
 Page 3.
 Ariane Mildernberg. “Openings: Epochē as Aesthetic Tool in Modernist Texts: The Breakdown of the Object,” in Carole Bourne-Taylor and Ariane Mildenberg, eds. Phenomenology, Modernism and Beyond (Bern: Peter Lang, 2010), 41-49.
 Alexandra Munroe, “Art of Perceptual Experience: Pure Abstraction and Ecstatic Minimalism” in Alexandra Munroe, curator,The Third Mind: American Artists Contemplate Asia, 1860-1989 (New York: Guggenheim Museum Publications, 2009), 295-296.
 Natalie Depraz, “Imagination,” in Hans Rainer Sepp and Lester Embree, eds,, Handbook of Phenomenological Aesthetics, Volume 59 in Contributions to Phenomenology, The Center for Advanced Research in Phenomenology (Dordrecht, Netherlands: Springer, 2010), 155-156.
 Michel Henry, Seeing the Invisible: On Kandinsky, Scott Davidson, trns. (London: Continuum, 2009), 377.
 Ibid., 380.
 Jean-francois Lyotard, Phenomenology, Brian Beakley, trns. (New York: State University of New York Press, 1991), 44.
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